First day back at university today having spent the past two weeks on my first primary school placement. The experience was so beneficial and really consolidated for me how much I want to be a teacher. I was placed in a relatively small school with approximately 150 pupils, one class per year group, with the exception that the Primary 2 class was a composite containing six Primary 1 pupils.
For the first week I was placed within the Primary 7 class. There were 16 pupils in the class with ranging ability including some pupils who had additional support needs. At first I was a little apprehensive about being assigned this age group as I had always envisaged working with infants. My fears were soon set aside and I found it a great experience to work with children who are old enough to be forming their own considered opinions. I saw many of the teaching strategies we have discussed in lectures and workshops across the curriculum such as reciprocal reading and mental maths strategies. In particular it was good to be able to discuss with the teacher how these strategies transfer into the classroom setting and also the pros and cons of active learning and the impact the school felt it was having on attainment. I have taken on board a lot from observing the teacher not only in the delivery of lessons but also dealing with disciplinary issues and lesson planning. I now also have an awareness of just how much teaching time is ‘lost’ due to other demands placed on time available in the classroom for example Scottish Government initiatives ‘Daily mile’ and ‘ERIC – Everyone Reading in Class’. I was pleased with my performance when I was given opportunities to work with groups of children on mathematics and literacy and did this on many occasions. My feedback on my performance from my peer and also the teacher was very positive and has been a real boost to my confidence.
My second week was spent in the lower school in the Primary 2/1 class which has 23 pupils ranging from 4-6 years old. This was a very different experience from the Primary 7 class! In this setting I saw how important having a set daily routine is to the smooth running of the class. On the first day the class teacher was away from the school and other members of staff covered various aspects of the days learning. When the teacher returned the next day I was able to see the difference it makes to the childrens’ behaviour when the have their regular teacher. I was surprised by just quite how much calmer they were. In this setting I was exposed to much more active learning for all aspects of the curriculum. Structured play is an integral part of every day and it was fascinating to see how the children responded to learning in this way. It was very informative to see the Literacy technique say/read/make/break/blend/write working when the children were learning the blended phoneme ‘ue’ and how successful it was in consolidating that learning for the pupils. Most numeracy tasks were completed following the SEAL framework which I was not previously aware of so it was a good learning experience for me to discuss this at length with the teacher. I was given several opportunities to work with various groups of children on their literacy and numeracy and found this great fun albeit managing behaviour is a constant theme and keeping focus on a set task when the pupils are distracted by other tasks going on around them.
Overall I found that this school had a wonderful community feel to it that definitely extended into the staffroom where I enjoyed time talking to other teachers and also students from other universities. It was great to have so many people willingly offer insights into primary teaching. I feel that this first placement has put in to context a lot of my theoretical learning from university and encouraged me find out more about different teaching strategies and methods. I cannot wait for my next placement and I am a little disappointed I will have to wait so long!